Highway funding will run out in September

Federal funding for road construction projects will run out in September unless Congress appropriates additional money, the Department of Transportation said on Wednesday.

The department released a Highway Trust Fund tracker that showed the fund has about $8.5 billion left. The figured included $9.7 billion that was transferred from the federal government’s main funding account at the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year in October.

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The agency said “surface transportation program continues to outlay at a greater pace than receipts are coming in.”

The result, the department said, is that “the cash balance has dropped by nearly $3.4 billion since the General Fund transfer occurred.”

The highway trust fund is traditionally filled by money collected from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax. But the gas tax only brings in about $35 billion per year, while the 2012 surface transportation bill includes about $54 billion per year in road and transit spending.

Lawmakers held a hearing this week about the possibility of identifying new funding sources for transportation projects. The surface transportation appropriations bill that funds highway projects is also set to expire in September unless Congress acts.

The department on Wednesday said the highway trust fund’s “mass transit account” was in better shape than the overall fund.

The agency said the mass transit account would have about $440 million left at the end of the 2014 fiscal year in September.

Approximately 2.8 cents of the federal gas tax has been set aside for public transit projects since 1982.

The department said the mass transit account began the year with $2.5 billion cash on hand, and was supplemented with a $2.2 billion transfer in October 2013.

The agency said the mass transit account had $3.8 billion as of December 2013.